Shoes and the Environment: Learning with AVRIO Footwear


Are you aware that Americans throw out 300 million pairs of shoes every year? And those shoes take 30-40 years to decompose?

For a safer and cleaner environment, recycling sneakers is vital.

To dive deeper into finding a solution, all sections of the Sustainability and the Future of Fashion course had the amazing opportunity to present a new initiative to the founder of a sustainable footwear company.

AVRIO footwear promotes sustainability and a circular economy for the future of fashion. At the start of the semester, CEO John Matthews gave us an overview of the brand and his expectations for the new initiative. The main purpose of the project was to propose a shoe buy-back program with Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and Design for the Environment (DFE) strategies.

On Dec. 16, Professor Andrea Reyes’ class presented their projects to Mr. Matthews and Professor Andrea Kennedy via Zoom. The first group (Cassandra Aguila, Zoe Gilligan, Chie Kie and me) introduced the “Track Back Shoes”program, which would provide prepaid shipping labels to customers to ship the shoes back to an AVRIO facility after use.

These shoes would then be disassembled domestically, allowing us to reduce our carbon footprint. The group also proposed that the recyclable materials could be used in a collaboration with BAGGU to create a collection of reusable bags.

The second group (Emily Marquez, Elisa Ramirez, and Georgia Whitworth) introduced their “Make It Circular”program, which involved using drop-off bins at accessible locations. Once customers drop off their used AVRIO shoes, the shoes would be transported to an AVRIO factory for disassembly. The group’s five-year plan envisioned collaborating with Amazon for funding.

After each presentation, Mr. Matthews gave us positive feedback and helpful tips on how to present in a professional setting.(Editor’s Note: At the end of this project, Matthews gifted all the students with a pair of Avrio Sneakers to thank them for their great work.)

Being sustainable will only be attainable with measurable goals and genuine initiatives. Being collaborative is a pillar of AVRIO footwear and Mr. Matthews was pleased to see both groups mention working with other brands.

I had a great experience working with my team on this project. We learned more about footwear and its impact on the environment and it got us thinking of innovative ways to create a circular economy. It was also great opportunity to get real feedback directly from the CEO of a brand.